By: Dr. Aoife Kenny, Volunteer at Women Deliver
Yesterday, Columbia University’s Earth Institute, held a public event to explore the environmental and social impact of our global population reaching 7 billion this year, and highlighted the need for women's empowerment to be at the core of any plans that look to create sustainability.
Joel Cohen, a Professor of Populations at Columbia University, gave the keynote address and discussed how decelerating population growth is essential to global development and to addressing our environmental crisis. He believes in “empowering women to be able to have the number of children they want, and educating them, so they are able to decide.” In order to accomplish this, women need access to voluntary contraception and support, as well as primary and secondary education.
The panel, which included Columbia University’s own experts in sustainable development, international relations, energy, and health policy, agreed that the role of women is essential to global development, drawing particular attention to the relationship between fertility rates, income inequality and regional conflicts. Panelists also praised the Elders’ recent launch of a campaign centered on ending child marriage, and noted that the recent announcement that donor countries will be cutting their aid budgets could pose a significant challenge to further progress.
Panelist Jeffery Sachs, economist and Director of the Earth Institute, was determined to “bring population back as a focus” despite the political sensitivities, and reiterated its role in the “poverty trap.” Cohen, described it as a “most intimate and most public” issue – something that is difficult to discuss but essential to address. The panel’s moderator, Mathew Bishop, US Business Editor and New York Bureau Chief of The Economist, closed the panel by saying: the most important step the world, as a whole, needs to take is for women’s empowerment – in every aspect of life.
The event’s emphasis on girls’ and women’s health, education, and empowerment was profound. To hear the undisputed significance of women in sustaining our future, from experts of so many different fields, was heartening and timely. Women and girls, it seems, are planted firmly on the sustainable development agenda.
Flickr photo by: International Transport Forum